The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning: A Literary Life

The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning: A Literary Life

The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning: A Literary Life

The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning: A Literary Life

Synopsis

The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning offers an accessible and authoritative guide to the essentials of Robert Browning's life and poetry. Drawing from his personal letters and from the diaries and memoirs of his contemporaries, this literary biography provides a wealth of information about the main events of his life, including the social, political, religious, and aesthetic issues that concerned him; it offers critical commentary defining the central characteristics of his poetry; and it tracks the changes in his reputation through contemporary reviews and the growth of the Browning societies. An English poet who was deeply responsive to European culture and affairs, Robert Browning has sometimes been dismissed by modern readers for his obscurity or roughness of language. Now two distinguished scholars of Browning's work trace the arc of his development as an artist and thinker from his earliest poems to the last in his long and remarkably productive career. The authors illustrate how Browning moved from describing "incidents in the development of a soul," to developing his reader's soul as collaborator in the artistic process, to the development of his own soul in the making of poetry. Through a fresh reading of not only his poetry but also the letters of both Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, they have garnered details that situate the two in historical context, provide a vivid sense of Robert's personality, and also correct biases against Elizabeth's influence. Their critical commentary focuses on the poet's dramatic imagination and argues that his extensive body of work after The Ring and the Book -often dismissed as evidencing a decline in his poetic powers-represented new directions in his poetry marked by inventive dialogue, verbal puzzles, and virtuoso rhyming. Written to appeal to both general readers and scholars, the book will enable anyone to read Browning's poems with a firm sense of the subjects and practices that are central to his texts, along with a knowledge of their context in the poet's life and thought. The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning invites readers of a singular body of poetry to achieve a new understanding of Browning's work and a greater appreciation of his life.

Excerpt

When Dick Kennedy died in December 2002, he had written about two-thirds of this critical biography, his twenty-six chapters telling the story of Robert Browning’s life to 1856 and providing critical commentary on his works and their reception to Men and Women. He also left, in longhand, an account of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s death in 1861, which now makes up the final pages of chapter 27. His work on Browning, anticipated by his book on Asolando after a scholarly career devoted largely to Thomas Wolfe and E. E. Cummings, became an absorbing retirement project for him, but ill health eventually impeded its progress, and he began to fear, as early as the fall of 1999, that he might be unable to finish it. He and I had met at the Armstrong Browning Library four years earlier, and our long and enjoyable conversations about the poet made us friends then and later led him to ask me to carry on with the project if he were unable to. That is how my name has come to be linked with his in the writing of this book, to which I have contributed the final eight chapters. I note a sad fact about Browning biographies: two of the standard ones—Griffin and Minchin’s (1910) and Irvine and Honan’s (1974)—have two authors because the scholars who started the works did not live to finish them.

Two authors means two voices in the book, and although Dick had written to me saying that “I want you to feel that this is our book brought into being by the two of us,” death has made impossible one kind of collaboration: continuing discussions, the reading and revising of each other’s drafts, the settling on our versions of events in the life and approaches to the works. Dick, with his characteristic generosity of spirit, foresaw his collaborator’s situation, and when he sketched his plans for the chapters he knew he . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.